Interview with Herbert Girardet on Regenerative Cities

Author of Creating Regenerative Cities, Herbert Girardet has a nice interview in London Essays on the challenges of transitioning cities off fossil fuels, and the differences between regenerative cities, resilient cities and sustainable cities.

Here’s a clip:

“I argue that nowadays we are struggling to make the transition from Petropolis to Ecopolis, where urban consumption supports and regenerates rather than despoils the ecosystems that nature and humanity need to survive. These days, some people argue for creating the ‘intelligent city’ or ‘creative city.’ Others talk about the ‘liveable city’, meaning a city that offers residents and visitors a good quality of life, with nice parks and safe streets and so on. And of course this agenda is very popular with city people and city governments. Then there’s the ‘smart city’ – the city that exploits all the potential of new IT technology. This is very popular with companies like IBM or Siemens, for obvious reasons, and there’s a lot of money being spent on this by city authorities and companies.

And then of course there is lot of talk about the ‘resilient city’ – although I have criticised this concept because to my mind it is rather like the medieval city that surrounds itself with a defensive wall: in the past it would have been to resist marauding tribes; increasingly today it would be walls to shut out rising sea levels.

And then finally there is the concept of the sustainable city, which dates back to the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 where the concept of sustainable urbanism was first defined. A sustainable city is a city where people live in ways that don’t damage the chances of future generations to lead good lives.

I argue in Creating Regenerative Cities that we need to think beyond sustainability because we have not done much to protect and sustain living nature in recent years, particularly in the period since these ideas were first formulated, 20–25 years ago. We have run down the resources of the planet to an extraordinary degree. The idea of the regenerative city draws attention to the need to replenish and make good the damage we have done and to understand the city in all its complex relations to the natural environment.”

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